Sam Newsome

Sam Newsome
"The potential for the saxophone is unlimited." - Steve Lacy

Monday, September 4, 2017

Four "Musts" for Awakening Your Inner Artist

Being and thinking like an artist is no easy task. Not just because of the ability, patience, and courage required, but because you must be primed to receive and deliver your ideas from such a creative head space. Like anything else, this requires a certain conditioning. Below are four "musts" that I've identified that might help you to get closer to thinking and creating from an artist's mindset.

1. Must be a blank slate.
Being a blank slate is so important because you don't want new ideas to be covered by old molds of thought. This will prevent you from realizing their potential. Imagine you're about to paint a picture. You will have a much different relationship with those new images when applied to a clean canvass versus painting over an old one. And sometimes being a blank slate is the willingness to let the former die so that you can be reborn.

2. Must be willing to be vulnerable in front of the world.
One of the things that all artists possess is a willingness to bare their souls in front of all. Great artists let it all hang out. Artists like Charlie Parker, Jackson Pollock, and Marlon Brando left nothing to the imagination. They embodied total spiritual and emotional transparency. You have to be willing to show the world your bad as well as your good, and all that's in between.

3. Must be aware

Being aware is crucial. Great art is not only a reflection of the times but what artists often reflect is how things could be different or maybe even better. This is why John Coltrane's A Love Supreme could not have been created during the 1940s, or why Albert Ayler would not have existed during the 1930s. There was nothing going on to inspire those types of creations. If we as artists are going to be a step or two ahead of popular trends and modes of thought, we have to be aware enough to know what we're getting ahead of.

4. Must have skills sets
You can be the most creative and innovative thinker in modern times; however, if you don't have the skill sets to bring those creative and innovative thoughts to fruition, they won't amount to a hill of beans. Often times, this is where people drop the ball. I've encountered many who come across as imposing figures on paper, or they may talk a good game; yet, they appear flat when you actually hear them play. This is because they lack the musical, mental, and instrument control to allow their ideas to prevail uncompromised. This takes work. I don't have an answer as to how to make this happen. All I can say is, "Make it happen, any way you can."



  1. Hi Sam,

    Don't you find a contradiction between a blank slate and having a skill set? Some philosophers of science mention that observation is theory laden, you must have a previous theory that allows you to discriminate among the infinitive number of elements that make up reality.



    1. First, this is another useful blog, Sam.

      Science and music are two different games, Mario. No one, especially in the 21st Centruy can do science using a blank slate. The days of wealthy person such as Issac Newton writing a tome in their leisure are over. You need years of study to just understand what science has found since the enlightenment, then you need to find you way in that world both sceintifically and career-wise, which unfortunately, involves getting money from politiacally-controlled groups (in the U.S.) such as EPA, DOE, USDA, and NSP. If you don't understand what you're doing scientifically, you will likely produce nonsense at best and dangerous nonsense at worst.

      With regard to music, you can certainly play using a blank slate, but unless you play very infrequently, you will develop skills and habits (ticks) that begin to permeate your playing and the slate will begin to fill. I don't play songs, because I'm a free improviser, but I spend a lot of time practicing my insturnment so that I can control the sounds that come out of it. One can improvise without developing instrumental technique, but it will be very limiting. Success in any field favors those who are prepared.

      No one dies when music is produced by unskilled players, whereas scientific ideas produced or proliferated by non-scientists or charlatans can have life-threatening implications (e.g., climate change denial). However, I'd rather not listen to someone who is wholly unprepared with respect to their instrument.


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